Frequently Asked Questions

Applications Questions

How many apply to your PhD program?

For Fall 2023 admission we had 392 applicants.  For Fall 2022 admission we had 385 applicants.  For Fall 2020 admission we had 287 applicants. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we did not accept applications for admission in Fall 2021.

How many are admitted to your program each year?
We usually admit about thirty people each year.  Our goal is to have a cohort size of around thirteen students.
What is the average GPA?
The average undergraduate GPA of admitted applicants is 3.79.
Do you require or accept the GRE?
No, beginning with the Fall 2023 admissions cycle we no longer require or accept GRE scores as part of the application to our PhD program.
I am an international student, can I have the English language testing requirement waived?

Possibly.  The Graduate School (TGS) does not require English language testing scores from students who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited institution at which the language of instruction, for the whole institution, is English.  Applicants who fulfill this criterion will have the language testing requirement waived once the application is submitted, as long as a copy of the transcript from that institution is included in the application.

Is it possible to apply for an application fee waiver?

Yes, however, the department does not handle this process.  Application fee waivers are handled exclusively by The Graduate School (TGS) and more information about eligibility and the fee waiver application process can be found here

At the current time, application fee waivers are only available for US citizens and permanent residents.

Do you accept the Essential TOEFL test?
No, we will only accept the TOEFL iBT test and TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
Do you accept the at TOEFL iBT Home Edition?
For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will accept the at home testing services offered by ETS due to testing center closures.
Where should my IELTS scores be sent?
The Graduate School accepts the electronic version of the test. Test takers should select our organization (Northwestern University - The Graduate School) when booking the test to ensure we receive the official score results. (TOEFL scores must be sent to TGS using school code 1565).  Official scores can be no more than 2 years old from the intended quarter of entry, and an overall minimum score of 7.0 is required for the IELTS.
I will need financial aid. How does that work?
The Graduate School, and Sociology Department, are committed to ensuring all PhD students are financially supported during their education, through a combination of institutional and external funds, for the majority of the time they are registered and working toward their degree.
As part of this, nearly all admitted students are offered a funding package from The Graduate School. The Graduate School funding package consists of 5 full years (20 quarters) of stipend, tuition scholarships and a health insurance subsidy. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for external funding during their first 5 years, which can extend this funding up to 1 additional year (see TGS External Award Policy).
Some of our entering students have received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Diversifying Faculty in Higher Education Fellowship, the Jacob K. Javits Program, the American Sociological Association, or the Ford Foundation, to name a few.
Minority students should either contact or peruse the website of The Graduate School's office of Diversity and Inclusion for funding opportunities.
I'm interested in getting a Master's …
We do not offer a terminal master’s degree program.
I’m interested in an online, or part time program…
We do not offer an online, or part-time program; this is a full-time, in-person PhD program.
I would like a tour or to meet with an admissions officer…
Due to the high volume of applicants to our PhD program, we are unable to offer tours or meetings with admission officers prior to admittance to our program.  All admitted students are invited to an Open House event where they visit the campus and meet with faculty and current graduate students before the April 15th decision deadline.

Applicants with questions should email, and your inquiry will be answered directly or forwarded to the appropriate person.
Can I apply to start in the winter or spring?
No, all applications must be for Fall quarter admission. The application deadline is December 1 of the preceding year.
I have an MA already does the department accept transfer credit?
Yes, on a case-by-case basis and only after a student is admitted to the program will we assess if a course can count for particular requirement. Students can have a maximum of 6 courses waived from prior graduate level coursework.
I was an econ (English, French, biology, et. al.) major. Can I apply?
Yes.  We look for talent, intellectual curiosity and a passion for research, not for a specific type of training. Our cohorts traditionally have diverse academic backgrounds. What they share are current research interests that can be addressed with sociological theories and methods.
I am interested in (fill in the blank) Are any faculty studying that?
Please review the list of faculty interests on our website. In general, the Department’s strengths include sociology of culture, social organization, urban sociology, sociology of law/criminology, social inequalities of all sorts (class, gender, race, sexualities, ethnicity, religion, etc.), and comparative-historical sociology, as explained on the website.
I have interdisciplinary interests. Can I pursue those interests while obtaining my Sociology PhD?
We encourage interdisciplinary work. For some (but not all) areas, this takes place via the Graduate School’s graduate cluster program. For others, it involves working with faculty in different departments and/or affiliating with various centers around campus.
How long does the program typically take?
The Graduate School (TGS) requires doctoral students to be admitted to candidacy prior to the beginning of the student's fourth year, and to complete the PhD in nine years. Many students complete the PhD in 6 years, but some take an additional 1 to 3 years.

Frequently asked questions after application has been submitted

I took the TOEFL test on November 1st, or later, and my official scores aren’t ready to be sent to TGS, what happens?
Your application is considered incomplete and will not be reviewed until these official scores arrive.  We strongly encourage applicants to take these tests before October 15th to avoid any issues with test scores arriving by the December 1st deadline.
One of my recommenders told me that they didn’t have to submit their letter of recommendation by the December 1st deadline, is this true?
No, your entire application, with all required materials, must be received by the December 1st deadline.  Due to the high volume of applications we receive, the review process begins shortly after the deadline.  Any materials received after December 1st may not be reviewed by the admission committee.
When will the department have a decision on my application?
Admission decisions are usually announced during the second or third week of February.  You can check the status of your application via your Activity Page using the same Username and Password you used to create your online application.